09/22/2005 - As the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort unfolds along the Gulf Coast, there has been considerable speculation about the disaster's possible impact on fundamental public attitudes on such questions as the role of government, the plight of the poor and the extent of racial progress in the U.S.
On the left, some have expressed the hope that Katrina will turn the public's attention to the ongoing hardships of the poor and needy, leading to a revival of support for government assistance programs. Some on the right believe the widespread perception that government failed in responding to the crisis could bolster conservative efforts to limit government's role generally. And across the ideological spectrum, many wonder if the fact that so many of Katrina's victims were black will trigger a re-evaluation of race relations in this country.
However, a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Sept. 8-11, 2005, among 1,523 Americans, suggests that while Katrina's impact has already been felt politically in somewhat lower ratings for the president, for instance it has had far less of an impact on long-term values relating to poverty, race and government. In this regard, the initial public reaction to the crisis appears to be far more tempered than to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which dramatically raised esteem for government and transformed, at least temporarily, public values in many other areas.